One of the greatest wonders of creativity is how ageless it is. From a very early age, babies respond to color, sound and movement. Building blocks, educational toys and play mats and cushions with bright colors, textures or interesting sounds are designed to help stimulate an infant's natural curiosity.
TOYS FOR INFANTS
Infants need bright-colored toys of many textures. They should be washable, non-breakable, and have no sharp edges that might cut or scratch. Infant toys should be large enough so they cannot be swallowed and they should have no small attached pieces (like eyes on a stuffed animal or bells on a shaker) that could be pulled off and swallowed. At this age, babies put everything into their mouths as part of exploring their worlds.
Any toy that infants are given must be safe when used in this way. Infants are interested in looking at toys, touching them with their hands and mouth, fitting pieces of things together and making sense of their worlds. Choose toys for them to look at, feel, chew on, hold, and drop. As infants begin to walk or crawl, they also will be interested in push-pull toys and balls. Appropriate infant toys include: rattles, squeak toys, blocks, crib mobiles, stacking toys and rings, push-pull toys, stuffed animals or dolls, nested boxes or cups, books with rhymes, simple picture books, noise making toys, small soft toys for throwing, strings of beads (large, plastic), and music-making toys.
How you can help 1. Be understanding when you play with infants. Play with them for short periods of time so they will not get overly excited. Babies do not understand or enjoy teasing. For example, when they reach for a toy, let them get it instead of dangling it then snatching it away. Teasing frustrates babies and may make them cry. 2. Play "pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo" and simple games with infants.3. Let babies play with your fingers and hair. 4. Read MUSICAL FUN FOR INFANTS or PLAY FOR INFANTS to get more ideas about what to play with infants.More about Children and ToysBack to Top
PLAY FOR INFANTS
Play from birth to 18 months, primarily involves use of the senses. Babies see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. They learn about their world in these ways. The information infants gain from this simple play is important for their future play and learning. As soon as babies open their eyes, parents can provide brightly colored pictures around the room, changing the position of the crib and the pictures often. Focusing on the pictures strengthens eye muscles and encourages babies to be alert. Light, washable toys hung as a mobile encourage eye exercises. When the baby is able to hold things; soft rattles and squeaky toys help the child to feel and to hear distinctive sounds. A crib gym set will help in physical growth. Although the child can play alone, part of the play period should include other people. Singing and cuddling are important ways that we can participate in play with infants.When babies begin to sit up, their toys may need to be changed. They are now ready for plastic clacker rings, and enjoy any object that has movement and color. When babies start creeping, they are ready for cloth picture books, balls, and soft, cuddly toys. Nursery rhymes with rhythm and repetition sound pleasant to older infants.
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MUSICAL FUN FOR INFANTS
The music infants hear is dependent on their caregivers. Mothers might sing short, simple songs in high-pitched voices or dads might chant phrases over and over in deep, low tones. Brothers, sisters, and babysitters may play popular records on the stereo for them. Grandparents may tune to radio stations that play classical or orchestrated music. Some research findings suggest that babies can hear music even before they are born, while still in the mother's womb. Sing simple, short songs to infants in a high, soft voice. Make up one or two lines about bathing, dressing, or eating to sing to them while you do these activities. Nursery rhymes said with rhythm and repetition sound pleasant to older infants. You also can provide rhythmic activities for younger infants by rocking them or clapping and patting their hands together. Babies will respond with excited movements like swaying, waving, and bouncing. Gurgling, cooing, and happy shouting are the baby's own way of making music!
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STORIES AND POEMS FOR INFANTS
Long before children can walk and talk they will listen closely to the rhythmic rise and fall of their caregiver's voice. Before 6 months, the baby's experience with stories and poems is closely tied to music and rhythm experiences. Babies older than 6 months still enjoy rhythmic sounds and repetition. Reading nursery rhymes and simple stories to babies will help develop their language skills and offer a change in the words and sounds they hear every day. Reading to babies also will help them learn to listen and to tell the difference between sounds. Cloth and board books, simple story books, and wordless picture books offer babies something to feel, touch, look at, and think about. By looking at books, babies will learn that pictures have meaning. As you point out things in the pictures, they will begin to use their eyes to connect pictures with words. A 6-month-old is ready to sit in your lap and can reach out to touch and feel the book as you point to the pictures. By 9 months, most babies will try to help you turn the pages. Turning the pages of a think board book will help infants feel good about what they can do, as well as help develop their small muscle coordination. Choose a book with a short, simple story and a lot of rhythm and repeated words and phrases
Books for Infants
Thinking books, simple story books, nursery rhymes, poems, wordless picture books, cloth and board books are good choices for babies. Young infants will enjoy picture books made of cloth or cardboard that have pictures of things they know. They like eye catching colors such as red, blue, or yellow, and pictures with high contrast like simple black and white drawings. Identification books, such as Richard Scarry's *Best Word Book Ever*, are good for older infants. From about 15 months to 18 months, you can start to read simple stories with plots to the children you care for. Books that children can take part in, like Pat the Bunny, delight older babies. Thinking books that introduce ideas like up/down, in/out, big/little, and over/under are good for older infants as well.
How you can help Infants do not have long attention spans so keep your reading activities short and fun. It also is a good idea to have books on low shelves so babies can reach them when they want. Try reading or reciting poetry and rhymes or doing finger plays during bath or feeding time. Remember that children of this age love to have things repeated over and over, so be willing to recite the same rhyme a number of different times. Soon babies will respond to the different tones and rhythms and may try to repeat the rhyme or do the finger play along with you. Finger plays are poems, rhymes or songs with finger motions. There are many books available with examples of finger plays in them. Some are listed in the resources.
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Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Lagoni, L. S., Martin, D. H., Maslin-Cole, C., Cook, A., MacIsaac, K., Parrill, G., Bigner, J., Coker, E., & Sheie, S. (1989). Good times being creative. In *Good times with child care* (pp. 239-253). Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.